How to Be a Better Student of the Game

Pick any hall of fame basketball player or coach, no matter what the era, and you will find they all have one thing in common. Whether Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or Tim Duncan, it doesn’t matter: they are all intense students of the game. They’re basketball educated and scholars of the hardwood.

If there was a Valedictorian of the Hall of Fame, my vote would go the legendary Coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden once said, “If I am through learning, then I am through.” We’re always learning – it’s an essential part of humanity, and should be an essential part of a player’s development as well.

As a player or coach you must continue to evolve within the game, and as the great John Wooden says, if anyone is feels that they are done learning, then that person should remove themselves from the game.  

So, what is basketball IQ and how do you become a student of the game? 

For most young players, the game is just fun. Studies show that around middle school and early high school goals start to formulate and we begin to have a more serious approach to life and sports. This is when young players are the most influential and receptive to coaching and developing good fundamentals.

Sixty percent of children between the ages of 6-14 experience positive growth and development, while 25%-40% experience a declining motivation and involvement with school programs and sports.  

At these ages youth can start to exhibit their individuality, master new skills and seek emotional support from adults. During this time, their desire to learn how to do things correctly increases as they begin to isolate themselves as individuals ( 

To be a scholar of the hardwood, one must know the game. Below are the essential points of basketball IQ.

  • Know the fundamentals

  • Understand the rules of the game

  • Know the general history of the game

  • Know the roles of the three entities in a basketball game: players, coaches and officials

  • Know the equipment: floor dimensions, ball dimensions, rim and backboard

  • Understand what strategy is and how it applies to basketball

  • Grasp a firm understanding efficient practice methods and drills 

“What I want to continue to do is to help these young women be successful. You just don’t say goodbye at the end of their playing career and end it there.”
– Pat Summitt – Hall of Fame NCAA Women’s Coach 

Developing your basketball IQ from an early age will benefit you greatly, no matter how long you intend to play the game. During the course of your basketball career, you will begin to instill values and definitions of success as they pertain to your philosophy. This is where your foundation of being an educated individual will come into play.

Basketball education is not solely confined within the dimensions of the court or restricted to the walls of the locker room. Basketball education is understanding the impact the game has on the world and those around it. You owe it to yourself to become knowledgable and spread that knowledge and understanding to everyone you come in contact with.

Basketball education is a way of life; it’s a choice you make to dedicate yourself to the game and all it has to offer. Knowledge truly is power–never underestimate your mental abilities as they relates to your basketball career.

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